When I was about 7, a close relative married a man about 20 years her senior. My parents trusted them. This was family after all. As a couple, they took my sister and me everywhere with them. This "gentle" man was a public official in town. All of my family thought he was a man to be respected. I was in 3rd grade before the more blatant abuse began. It started innocently enough as he played with me, wrestling. Every now and then his hand would "slip"and touch my breasts. At first I did not think anything of it; eventually but I discovered I was feeling a little uncomfortable.

Time passed and things worsened. I would go into my bedroom and he would follow me. While there, he would reach out and rub my breasts. I would walk out of the room and feel like crap. There were times that he would touch me, for example, in the car with my sister sleeping in between us. One day I was punched by a boy and my parents had this man bring me to the courthouse to file my complaint against the boy. Being in such a public building did not prevent him from taking another opportunity to touch me again.

There were times that he would have me sit on his lap while he would reach under my shirt and caress my nipples. I could hear him breathing so hard and felt him become erect. I figured that once I started wearing bras that he would stop but that did not happen. He would just undo my bra and molest me. I began having nightmares but I was too scared to say anything.

One day he asked me if I would go out to the car with him. I told him that I did not want to. My parents became angry because they thought I was being rude. Remember, this was someone that my parents and family trusted; a public official otherwise "respected" within the town. I finally agreed and went outside with him frankly because I was too scared to tell my parents what was going on. We were on the porch and he asked, "Can I touch your nipples?" I told him, "No!" and he said, "Good girl". I was sickened! I thought I was going to vomit. It all seemed to be one big joke to him.

Finally, when I was in 5th grade, someone came to our class to explain good touch and bad touch. After the presentation was concluded, I asked my teacher to come out to the hall with me because I had something to tell. I discussed what had been happening to me over the past few years and immediately my parents were called in. My parents in turn called the police. My father was beyond livid. He brandished his gun in front of the investigating officer, threatening he was going to murder my abuser. The officer stated that he completely understood but convinced my father that I needed him more than ever, not locked away in jail.

Like many similar cases, my story was investigated. Many of my extended family members chose to go into denial. "They", after all, could not have allowed a child molester within their midst. They instead chose to claim that I was making all of this up since I knew "too much" about sex at such an early age. After being advised by an attorney about the scrutiny I would have to endure, my parents decided it was not in my best interest to pursue my claim. The abuse had lasted 4 ½ years. I, however, would not just be a *victim* in this case, but also put on trial. I suppose my parents believed that I had been abused enough without having to go through it again within a public forum.

Throughout this time, and for many years to come, I would wake up during the night crying from a recurring nightmare -- my molester was in my room. I had this image of his eyes being poked out but still he was trying to kill me.

During the investigation, complaints from coworkers of my molester surfaced. There were accusations of homosexuality. In the end, he did lose his position although publicly he continued to deny any wrongdoing.

After 15 years of counseling I continue to struggle with my past abuse. At this time, our family has made a reconnection with my abuser's family. I'm forced to see him on a more regular basis. Despite the fact that it has been many years ago, being around him continues to sicken me.

One of my grandparents passed away last year. My whole family was together for a week, including this molester. I discovered him several times just staring at my breasts! Certainly, I am now a "grown up" and big enough to protect myself -- yet still I remain his victim. Since my family was already withstanding the pain of grieving their loss, again I remained silent.

Even more recently while working at another family member's home my abuser stopped by. The lust in his eyes as he watched over me was enough to drive an arrow into my heart. Again, he maintains the ability to continue to make me his victim -- even if it is "only" emotional.

The investigation years ago on the surface did not label this man exactly what he was -- what he is -- a child molester. Still, the one caveat I was given then and continue to draw strength from today, is that due to the spotlight he was placed under I most likely prevented my own eventual rape. There is no doubt, given the progression of the abuse that this was going to be my future.

Still, today, the victimization continues. It is not just me that has to suffer. I'm in a loving relationship with my husband - a man that accepts and understands how the abuse I suffered as a child continues to haunt me today. Regardless of the fact that I love and truly trust my husband, I cannot display or enjoy the sexual caresses that are normal within a marriage. My own husband cannot kiss, fondle, or even caress my breasts in any manner without sending my whole being screaming into the past. What other women enjoy as a part of their ability to make love, my mind will not release from being "dirty" or somehow wrong. My abuser is there between us.

My living nightmare does not stop there. Just a few years ago, to my horror, I found my own daughter had been raped -- again the abuser was a so-called "family member." The physical consequences of this have forced her to endure painful surgeries and will most likely be something she has to bear the rest of her life. I find myself asking, "How could this have happened?" "Why?" with no clear answers. Fighting now for my daughter, my own abuse is thrown back into the forefront.

Child abuse has many victims. Breaking clear of the cycle can even feel at times impossible. Past abuse often haunts the reality of today. Now, a new victim; another innocent child that will be forced to face years of both physical and emotional suffering. At times it feels impossible to believe this nightmare will ever end.

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